Thursday, October 12, 2006

I Am a Values Voter

Apparently, I am not a 'values voter', I am an 'issues voter'. And whatever I base my evaluation of issues on, it is not 'values.'

We have a situation here where one group decide to manipulate the people with a campaign of deception, and another group of people who have said that they will accept the responsibility of keeping others informed abdicated their responsibility to think about what they said and wrote when reporting on what the first group was doing.

The idea of calling fundamentalist Christians 'values voters' is a marketing trick - an attempt to manipulate and deceive others into believing things that are, at best, questionable by manipulating the use of language. This trick works by taking a term that has long been associated with a particular concept in public language, and suddenly shift that term to some other concept. This confuses the public into assigning the first concept itself to the second - to assign the concept of 'value' to the concept of 'fundamentalist Christian'.

In this case, 'value' means 'that which is should be promoted or encouraged'. There are differences of opinion as to what has value - as to what people should be bringing about. However, this dispute was always over the answer to the question, "What has value?" Not a dispute over whether we should have value or, whether we should have 'something else' other than value.

The campaign of deception began when a group of people involved in this dispute about what has value decided to hijack the term 'value' for its side of the debate. This is done by spending a lot of money producing a lot of propaganda and standing up in front of a lot of people using this old term in its new way. Its purpose is to take a serious subject (indeed, what is often as important as life and death itself) and muddy up the discussion by confusing the language. Once the subject has been sufficiently muddied, the agents who muddied our language can seek to attach the original concept of 'value' (meaning 'that which we should pursue') to their opinion of what has value, without actually defending the claim that they are right.

People who would pull this type of rhetorical trick are morally contemptible. They display a lack of respect for the subject at hand (actually trying to determine what it is that we should be pursuing). They also display a lack of respect for others by seeking to 'convince' them by treachery rather than by honestly presenting their case and allowing the listener to make up their mind.

To compound the problem, they are seriously mistaken about what has value. They have used this trick to promote false beliefs that 'value' can be found in such things as the worship of mindless zygotes as persons and in doing harm to real persons such as pregnant women, homosexuals, and those who do not share the religious belief of those who practice this deception. These are people who act on the principle that 'value' means replacing honest debate with rhetorical tricks and manipulative deception. These are the characteristics that we now see marking the so-called 'values' voters.

This is now combined with the fact that this same group seems to be the most devout defenders of an administraition that promotes torturing people; many of whom happen to be innocent of any wrongdoing. They have made themselves defenders of injustice (in the form of arbitrary arrest and indefinite imprisonment without a trial, and the abandonment of the principle of habeas corpus), and defenders of arbitrary and unchecked executive power.

It is no wonder that we see the likes of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and George Bush (who regularly display their love of the art of manipulative deception) among the public representatives of this group.

These are the representatives of the so-called 'values voter'.

The second moral breakdown can be found among the reporters who have decided to report on this story. It does not take philosophical brilliance to see that when these people are calling themselves and their followers 'values voters' that they are seeking to engage in manipulative deception by hijacking the concept of 'value'. It takes very little effort to include this concern in their reports - to report the fact that there are people who would call their work an effort hijack the concept of 'value' and confuse rather than contribute to public debate. It takes very little effort to report the fact that there are those who would view this type of manipulative deception contemptible and inappropriate for anybody who is actually concerned with moral values.

Obviously, many reporters do not think. They display the intellectual acuity of a parrot, merely repeating the phrases that they hear without giving any thought as to what they mean or the motives that might being those who want them repeated.

I am a values voter, as are those who think like I do.

We evaluate the position we take on issues according to our values.

We happen to think that torture is wrong, and that there is a fundamental right to habeas corpus - a fundamental right that people have to demand that governments provide a reason for imprisoning them.

We are people who value a state that does not entice would-be dictators to seek public office by creating offices with unchecked power.

We are people who assign value to beings that have desires and interests and not to clumps of cells that have no interests.

We are people who value the happiness and security of both our homosexual and our heterosexial neighbors and have no interest in bringing misery to their lives.

We are people who value honest debate - people who value a clear use of language and find it contemptible to manipulate others on important moral issues by the deceptive use of rhetorical tricks.

I am not going to assert that those who disagree with this stand are not 'values voters'. They are 'values voters'. Their problem is not that they do not have values. Their problem is that their beliefs about what has value are mistaken. Because they are mistaken, they do real harm to real people in the real world. They make the world worse than it would have otherwise been.

They, of course, would say the same about me.

This is why we need honest debate about what really does have value and what does not, and why we must not allow people to hijack the term 'value' by the use of rhetorical tricks.

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